Sneaky title. While we visualised Sonic and Mario running and leaping through Sega and Nintendo-themed takes on classic Olympian feats, that version would be called 'The Olympics With Mario And Sonic'. In this title we're dealing with 'at the' - they're only guests in the Beijing Bird Nest.
Sticking to the rules
Grounded in reality - Sega actually shacked up with the Olympic committee to replicate official rules - this is drier than munching on Astroturf. No items and no gimmicks, it's simply Olympic athletes donning iconic character costumes. In terms of gameplay, we're dealing with Track & Field redux - a Sega rep in the demo room admitted as much. Not necessarily a bad thing.
The 100-metre dash is clearly indebted to the button misery of Konami's finger-ruiner. Replace A/B button-beating with remote/nunchuk pedalling and you're just about there. Flail fast and sparks burst from your feet (in-game). This is understandable if you're playing as speed freak Sonic, but slightly confusing when emerging on Bowser's podiatrist-upsetting heels. And in a nod to age-old Ninty racing mechanics there's even a boost. In a dazzling feat of innovation you activate it on the starting line with a correctly timed press of B. Our jaws literally shrugged.
Triple jump's a tad trickier. Before you begin your hop-skip-jump you can heighten crowd support by clapping the remote and nunchuk together, contributing a boost to your eventual leap. Drum up speed for your run and the computer takes over, leaving the three remote/nunchuk flick jumps to be performed. The faster the flick the better the leaping angle. Combine speed, decent angle and a leap close to the line and you'll achieve distances that'd have Jonathan Edwards weeping into his medals.
Last, and most certainly least, is the hammer throw. Similar to the hammer chuck in Furu Furu Park (only here you're throwing a chained weight as opposed to three afroed weirdoes) it requires you to hold A, rotate the remote as fast as possible and tap B to release. Finding that perfect window of opportunity to release has always been tough and even the demo-man flumped it a good few times. Should've let the 'experts' have hands-on.
And in a move sure to please all those who've ever yelled at a bowling ball to "go left, go left, no! Not the gutter, you spherical cretin" you can beckon the lobbed weight further with motivational calls. More of the "here we go!" variety than the "it's who you are inside that counts" type of thing. Simply, find the premium moment in the arc to press A, and this call could manage to save the day.
Over 20 events, organised in tournaments and circuits, make up the game. During the demo Sega confirmed swimming and gymnastics - Bowser in tights? Ick - and a spot of skeet shooting with (maybe) Wii Zapper functionality. Plans for archery were suggested to include some form of nunchuk and remote bow mimicry - perhaps that nunchuk bowstring simulation scheme Ninty play-acted in their E3 Zelda demonstration last year.
Interestingly, someone cornered Shigsy and probed him on the subject of remote sword-fighting. He giggled the enquiry off - as he does with just about everything - but did suggest we direct our eyes towards Mario and Sonic for a spot of fencing. Spoilers? Naughty Shigsy. Don't expect Sega president Satomi to invite you over for tea any more.
Up and coming
On top of the 20-plus Olympic events, a few Mario and Sonic-themed games are on the way. For franchise fans this probably carries the most significance - seeing Sonic amidst Nintendo level furniture and Mario having to deal with rings instead of coins is more in the vein of what we were expecting from the title as a whole.